Is it better to be in the flow or go against the flow?

Estes Park, Colorado, mountain stream.

When doing my daily walk in the lazy river at our local pool, I contemplated this very thing.  When I walk with the current, I feel I’m totally in the flow. I can pass every Gertrude and Heacliff out for a leisurely stroll.  They call me Speedy. My goal is to walk fast so I can get in as many laps as possible in the hour I’m there.

Yet, when I asked my physical therapist how I could strengthen the muscles in my legs she told me I needed to be changing things up by going against the flow every 15 minutes or so.

Going against the flow is no fun. It is hard work.  Jets along the way bring a flood of water going in the opposite direction. It is like fighting an uphill battle. B

As I was doing my against the current laps I wondered is going against the flow better than going with the flow?

The definition of flow has to be first.  The analogy of “flow” I’m talking about is “the the mental state of operation in which a person in an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and success in the process of the activity.”

Have you ever been so completely consumed with one thing that when you look up at the clock four hours have passed by?  You skipped lunch, didn’t realize it when someone knocked on the door and blanked everything else going on around you out? That’s what being in the flow is all about.

It’s a state where the task you are working on involves high challenge and high skill level.  You love it. You are in the flow.

What about going against the flow? Is it exhilarating as well? Some have used the analogy of going against the flow to indicate going against the main stream of public opinion or holding an opinion or belief that is against the majority.

Most every innovative, creative, intellectual or spiritual giant we read about in the history books had a sense of going against the flow, perhaps even of being alone and unappreciated in their day and time. Leonardo da Vinci,  William Tyndale, Martin Luther King to name a few.

The most notable, of course, is Jesus Christ.  Those who follow His sold-out lifestyle find themselves being persecuted, some have even been killed for their faith simply because they go against the status quo.

Mihalya Csikszentmihalyi, a Hungarian professor now in the U.S. is said to be the one who came up with the concept of flow.  He describes people who are more likely to be in the flow as internally driven and dedicated to a specific purpose.

Even though Jesus was not popular with the leadership of the time and went against the flow, he also operated in the flow. He had a mission, one specific focus to His life and would not be deterred by anything. It didn’t matter that the religious leaders threatened and did crucify him. We all know he just rose again.

Going against the flow helps strengthen me physically. And if I have to go against the flow regarding a point of view I need to defend, I will willingly do so. A more interesting part of flow, though, is that to stay in the flow one must always be upping the challenge and the skill required.

Otherwise, we slip into boredom.  For instance, for the last week going against the current of the lazy river was a new challenge and skill level for me.

I have to admit going with the current now becomes relaxing which the guy with the hard name to pronounce says is the opposite of flow. That means when I go against the current, I’m in the flow.

In reality, going against the flow for a cause one really believes in can also be in the flow. Confused yet?

Whatever it takes to get there, there’s nothing like being in the flow.  It’s a state where time stands still.  Appointments cease to exist.  Food doesn’t matter. Mundane, routine business fades to the background.

That state happens a lot when I’m writing.  I literally have to set an alarm when I start working on something especially challenging if not, I will look up, like I just did, and realize I’ve missed something important.

I love being in the flow.  What about you.  What do you do that seems to be in the flow?

Teresa Shields Parker
Teresa Shields Parker is a Christian weight loss author, coach and speaker, who has lost more than 250 pounds. Her book, "Sweet Grace: How I Lost 250 Pounds and Stopped Trying to Earn God's Favor", is the number 1 Christian Weight Loss Memoir on Amazon. Her other books include: "Sweet Journey to Transformation: Practical Steps to Lose Weight and Live Healthy", "Sweet Freedom: Losing Weight and Keeping It Off With God's Help", "Sweet Change: True Stories of Transformation" and "Sweet Hunger: Developing an Appetite for God".

She also offers Overcomers Christian Weight Loss Academy and VIP one-on-one coaching program, both available under the weight loss tab. To book Teresa for your next event, check the Speaking tab on her website. Also check out her blog and Sweet Grace for Your Journey podcast under the tabs by those names.